Author: Iryon (Ilyon)
Translator: Wonjung Kim
668 pages, 225*132mm
Series: English Edition
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|>>>This book is written in Korean.|
About This Book
Samgungnyusa was written in the late thirteenth century by the Buddhist monk Ilyon. The title may be roughly translated "Legends of the Three King-doms," although the word yusa cannot be precisely rendered in English as it means not only legends but also history, anecdotes, memorabilia, etc.
Actually the title is somewhat of a misnomer, since the book is concerned mainly with the Silla kingdom and goes far beyond the Three Kingdoms period in Korean history, covering in addition the following era, during which Silla ruled the whole peninsula, and in a few cases extending to the Koryo dynasty, during which Ilyon lived, which succeeded Silla.
The book is composed of various elements. The early parts contain various legends and folk tales, especially those connected with the founding and early history of the three kingdoms. We find here, for example, the earliest documentary version of the legend of Tangun, who is said to have founded Korea some four thousand years ago. These tales are mingled with a considerable amount of fairly accurate history.
The later parts are mainly accounts of the founding of various Buddhist temples and agodas, events connected with them, and the lives and miracles of famous monks. A few tales of filial piety in the Confucian manner are added at the end.
The values of the book are many. Perhaps one of the greatest is that we have here an account of the beliefs and customs of the people of medieval Korea, something which can be found in no other contemporary document in such copious form. The Samguk Yusa is thus extremely important for the study of Korean history and society. Moreover, Ilyon had access to many ancient documents which have since vanished, both Korean and Chinese, and his book thus sheds light on many areas of East Asian history.
In addition to its value to the scholar, this is a book of great charm and literary grace. The genial personality of its author shines through in many places, and the tales of miraculous births, dragons, monks flying through the air and so on can stand comparison with any of the fairy-tales of Europe.
It is thus a book which has value not only for the scholar but also for the general reader who is interested in Korea, a nation which it is becoming more and more important for the western world to understand.
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